The Memory Lamp: Sandunes And Wolves’ Multi-Disciplinary Art Installation Promises To Intrigue

The Memory Lamp: Sandunes And Wolves’ Multi-Disciplinary Art Installation Promises To Intrigue

“The Memory Lamp is designed to invoke a sense of nostalgia that you might not be aware of, for which you need to be able to tap into the deeper levels of your subconscious. This is sparked off not only by youthful pockets of childhood memories, but deeper rooted data which travels back several lifetimes, transcending the dimensions of space and time.”

Our initial reaction to this write-up was a double-take – especially when we realised that The Memory Lamp was to be a blend of aural and visual elements designed to tap into this sense of nostalgia that transcends the conscious mind.

TARQ, a relatively new contemporary art gallery in Colaba, is Sanskrit for ‘discussion, abstract reasoning, logic and cause’, which seems uncannily fitting for the sort of exhibition it is going to be hosting as of this evening. Thematically curated art installations centering around the theme ‘Pocket Maps of the Mind’ curated by Veerangana Solanki hint at a palpable shift in the city’s artistic landscape, pioneering a multi-disciplinary approach to art that has remained relatively unexplored in Bombay.

Homegrown was, naturally, instantly intrigued by the riveting concept that seems to brush aside any whispers of creative stagnancy in our independent music community. We caught up with Sanaya Ardeshir (of Sandunes and Dualist Inquiry Band) and Wolves, who produce live visuals and projection mapping, to find out more about their collaborative art installation ‘The Memory Lamp’.

I. A Not So Brief History Of Time 

“Initially, a friend of mine who’s a curator approached me to play for the opening of the exhibition at the art gallery TARQ. Veerangani Solanki has worked on several different things in a range of spaces, and she’s very tied in with the art space.”

This is Sanaya’s description of the beginning of her journey into this art space.  “In September, she asked me if I wanted to perform and also to make music to commit to the gallery as a collectible. I had just come back from KYTA at the time, a unique artist residency in Himachal during which I’d spent a month working with other artists spanning disciplines of art, in an isolated place in the foothills of the Himalayas. We had worked on different installations there so it was all very fresh within me and I asked her – would you let me do you one better? Instead of just playing at the gallery, I’d love to do an art installation and collaborate with visual artists.”

The gallery really took to the idea and as they started discussing the theme for the exhibition, opening a Pandora’s box for the artists. TARQ, Sanaya explains, is really pushing the envelope when it comes to art in the city with its thematically curated exhibitions with multi-disciplinary artists.

“They gave me a really good space to do what I wanted to. Initially, I met with them to suss out what it would mean to do a sound installation in a closed space because I’m fairly new in the art space, and haven’t really done anything that is not performance-based before. I spoke to Jash Reen of Wolves about the theme and he was very interested in collaborating on the project. We’ve worked together before, but all our previous collaborations have always been very performance-centric. The nicest of these was probably this sit-down event at NCPA, except it still wasn’t ideal because we’d have liked it to have been even more visually immersive.”

II. A (Partially) Conscious Shift

“More than a shift, it’s a supplication of what I was doing earlier. I found that I wanted to do more interesting things in different spaces and I found that just the scope of the infrastructure of music wasn’t enough.”

In terms of her own personal growth as an artist, too, Sanaya finds that this is a stepping stone towards the kind of work she is interested in pursuing.

When asked about the big change in direction, she clarifies, “I couldn’t do it just within the music scene today, as we know it, or the gigs we go for. This honing of direction was something that has been developing for a while; it’s new, inspiring and challenging and it’s not just another gig at the same venue. The other installations are also going to be exploring the themes in their individual ways – one is a film, one is an interactive installation of pictures and pixels and so on.”

“I find that whenever I’m at a museum, or when I’m travelling, what really appeals to me is when producers, musicians or artists who make their presence felt in the indie/electronic scene but are also constantly working their way forward on the technology vs. art front as well. For example, there’s this girl Sougwen, a young girl in New York, who has been making waves with her audio-visual installations in museums, who also collaborates with a lot of musicians in the club circuit.”

Within the limitations of the infrastructure that the city provides in the music and art realm, this is the sort of installation that ‘The Memory Lamp’ aspires to be.

Within the project, Wolves and Sanaya both found a huge opportunity and platform to showcase a new media project, with the strong underlying theme of evoking within the viewer a sense of nostalgia. With view to put together an installation that was very ‘technology meets art’, Sanaya and the Wolves had a range of different ideas that were then adapted to fit in with the existing resources and space.

Their project explores memory from a different lens – from a collective perspective instead of an individual one. Very much in line with her beliefs that the big bang was a spiritual phenomenon that heralded the birth of unity consciousness, the theme instantly spoke to Sanaya, the ethos of which she and Wolves have created into an exploration of universal collective consciousness and the memories associated with it.

“Perhaps there should be a certain kind of nostalgia that any form of art evokes,” says Sanaya. “The aural landscape tries to invoke a bout of nostalgia that you might not know existed, while the visuals presented are trying to depict, in a really non-linear way, the birth of the universe.”

III. Finding A Visual Synapse

“Sanaya has a knack of announcing things and then making them materialise.”

Jash Reen of Wolves tells Homegrown how he and Joshua D’mello filled the spaces visually. “We had several discussions about existentialism and superconsciousness, and the ideation for the project was very organic. We checked out the space at TARQ, which is a corner and worked from there. Keeping in mind with the theme, we have a lot of different visual elements in the installation. We’re working for the first time with organza silk strips, that was something new to us, a net-like semi-transparent material covering the three surfaces of the lamp that the footage is going to be projected on to create the atmosphere we want. We incorporated brain scans into the footage after going through several prospective cerebral structures. This is a step out of our comfort zone, but it’s quite exciting. We generally use mapping software but this installation is on until November, so we’re going to be projecting it off a laptop. We didn’t want to take ‘Pocket Maps of the Mind’ too literally, so this is our interpretation of the theme.”

Describing the project as a ‘clandestine, solitary experience documenting an existentialist feel’, Jash further mentioned that coming from a music production background, he heard Sanaya’s audio soundtrack which they then trailed forward with, working in conjunction with each other. It appealed to Wolves aesthetically since, essentially, they had to visually interpret the universe – there is much cosmic imagery, with a lot of flashes and the images of brain scans. Jash believes that this collaboration is just the first step in a direction towards more mixed media projects on a larger scale in the future.

IV. A New Audio Approach 

“I asked myself, if I had access to the pocket maps of the mind – what would I do? I would explore consciousness, try and gain access to that which I don’t otherwise have access to, in the scope and span of my memory. How far back can your memory go?” 

For the audio element, Sanaya conducted interviews asking people about their first memories and later incorporating some of these samples in the audio itself, arranged incidentally - making it a lot like a movie soundtrack.

[Here’s part I of IV of the entire audio. Watch this space for releases of the remaining 3]

“The audio, which is going to be on loop, aspires to make viewers ask these very questions,” Sanaya continues. “A personal moment I associate with the project would be the making of it – when I went up to friends and acquaintances of mine asking them about their first memories. It takes people time to open up and it can be awkward initially, because it’s a very intimate experience. When you ask them if they believe that you mind can possess memories that extend past just your own range, it makes them think on a level that they haven’t before, or don’t want to, publicly.”

“The aural landscape of The Memory lamp is very melodic, and dissonant in some parts. I wanted to explore the gentler side of nostalgia. It’s not percussive at all, because I felt like it just wouldn’t fit in thematically but that was really new for me because making beats is what I’ve done for a really long time. The music has also been made for a closed space, as the gallery isn’t a well-treated place for sound.”

V. Of Waffles, Thomas Newman & Subconscious Exploration

“A personal moment in my life I wouldn’t mind reliving again would be back when I lived in a house with a swing, and a dog, and there were afternoon waffles that my mum would make for my sister and I. This must be one of my earlier memories and they were really good waffles.”

When asked about her personal associations with nostalgia she cites her favourite tribute to nostalgia to be the compositions of Thomas Newman, which she finds ‘minimal and touching’.

“I’m very intrigued by the world of the subconscious,” Sanaya remarks as we wind up.  “We hope that our art installation will incite people to look beyond the evident, as well.”

[Pocket Maps Of The Mind opens today, September 23, at 6 p.m. and continues for 6 weeks till November 7.] 

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